Weird pictures of Napoleon

We’ve all seen the classic pictures of Napoleon Bonaparte: riding across the Alps, sitting on his imperial throne, standing with a hand in his waistcoat. Here are some less well-known pictures of Napoleon that are downright weird.

The artist didn’t have a clue

As discussed in my post about what Napoleon really looked like, many Napoleonic artists did not have Napoleon as a model. The McGill University Napoleon Collection contains a rich assortment of prints that suffer from this handicap.

Buonaparte engraved by W. Bromley after an original drawing from Italy, 1797, copyright McGill University

Buonaparte engraved by W. Bromley after an original drawing from Italy, 1797, copyright McGill University

Napoleon Bonaparte in profile, wearing his general's uniform, by Francisco Prato, copyright McGill University

Napoleon Bonaparte in profile, wearing his general’s uniform, by Francisco Prato, copyright McGill University

Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the French Republic, painted by Bonerell at Paris, engraved by P. Dawe (London), 1800, copyright McGill University

Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the French Republic, painted by Bonerell at Paris, engraved by P. Dawe (London), 1800, copyright McGill University

Napoleon in profile by Croizier, 1806, copyright McGill University

Napoleon in profile by Croizier, 1806, copyright McGill University

Napoleon Bonaparte, from a frontispiece, copyright McGill University

Napoleon Bonaparte, from a frontispiece, copyright McGill University

Off kilter

Though these artists came closer to approximating traditional portraits of Napoleon, there is still something odd about their depictions.

Perhaps it’s the baby blue eyes.

Napoleon at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in New York

Napoleon at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in New York

The hair, mouth and chin?

Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the French Republic, by A.J. Gros Pinxt/W. Dickinson based on the portrait by Gros, copyright McGill University

Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the French Republic, by A.J. Gros Pinxt/W. Dickinson based on the portrait by Gros, copyright McGill University

Lipstick?

Napoleon Bonaparte, based on the portrait by David, copyright McGill University

Napoleon Bonaparte, based on the portrait by David, copyright McGill University

Those eyes.

I was induced to give a Plate of Napoleon, which is copied from the French engraving, because, I consider myself as perfectly Master of his Lineaments, and I think it the most decided Likeness that has been given of him. (1)

Napoleon Bonaparte, frontispiece from William Warden, Letters Written on Board His Majesty’s Ship the Northumberland and at St. Helena (London, 1816)

Napoleon Bonaparte, frontispiece from William Warden, Letters Written on Board His Majesty’s Ship the Northumberland and at St. Helena (London, 1816)

Lost in idealization

Would you recognize Napoleon (hair on fire) if you didn’t know it was him?

Allégorie du Concordat de 1801 (Allegory of the Concordat), by Pierre Joseph Célestin François, 1802

Allégorie du Concordat de 1801 (Allegory of the Concordat), by Pierre Joseph Célestin François

Napoleon the wounded gymnast.

Napoléon blessé devant Ratisbonne, by Pierre Gautherot. Napoleon, wounded in the foot at the Battle of Ratisbon on April 23, 1809, attempts to mount a horse while being treated by the surgeon Yvan.

Napoléon blessé devant Ratisbonne, by Pierre Gautherot. Napoleon, wounded in the foot at the Battle of Ratisbon on April 23, 1809, attempts to mount a horse while being treated by the surgeon Yvan.

Admittedly, it’s Napoleon’s poor son who comes off worst in this effort.

Napoleon I, Marie Louise and the King of Rome by Alexandre Menjaud, 1812

Napoleon I, Marie Louise and the King of Rome by Alexandre Menjaud, 1812

Silly captions are welcome in the comments.

You might also enjoy:

What did Napoleon look like?

10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte

What did Napoleon like to read?

What did Napoleon like to eat and drink?

What was Napoleon’s favourite music?

Was Napoleon superstitious?

  1. William Warden, Letters Written on Board His Majesty’s Ship the Northumberland and at St. Helena, (London, 1816), p. vii.

16 commments on “Weird pictures of Napoleon”

  • Irene Hartlmayr says:

    I wish photography had been invented a few years earlier! All contemporaries concentrate on the eyes
    and their extraordinary expressiveness and power. Also on the delicate hands and the fascinating smile. But no painting, print or even photograph can fully reproduce the living impression given by a real presence.

  • Tom Holmberg says:

    Pretty much all the Gilray caricatures look nothing like Napoleon.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Gillray_-_Napoleon_raging.jpg

  • David Markham says:

    I have several of these in my extensive engraving collection of well over 1000. Some are quite absurd but a few may well be closer than we think. But yes, oh to have an actual photo! We do have photos of veterans of the Grande Armée and I think of an aged Marie Louise.

  • Jeanne Ruderman says:

    The remains of Napoléon could have been photographed when his coffin was opened before its transfer from Saint Helene to Les Invalides. The daguerreotype had been invented by then. I wish they had thought of it!

  • Ann Marie Ackermann says:

    You made me just realize I wouldn’t recognize Napoleon if he passed me on the street! Every image looks different.

  • Randy Ford says:

    I’ve seen a painting by Philippoteaux , the Battle of Rivoli, many times. But never heard a real explanation of the story behind the picture. Was his horse shot from under him at Rivoli? Was he forced to take an aide’s horse to continue the battle? I have read he did have a number of horses killed under him and he had a preference to ride grey arab stallions so we assume the wounded horse was his?

    • Shannon Selin says:

      I haven’t looked into this, Randy, so I’m not sure of the answer. According to Count de las Cases (Napoleon’s memoir writer on St. Helena), “during this battle, the General-in-Chief…had several horses killed and wounded,” a claim that was repeated in numerous other secondary sources. I don’t know whether Philippoteaux — who was commissioned to do the painting in 1842, 45 years after the battle — was working on this general understanding (thus we might assume the wounded horse was Napoleon’s), or whether he had a specific incident in mind.

  • Flavia Del Giudice says:

    Dear Mrs Shannon Selin,
    I am a collector of stamp, posters stamps and postcards dedicated to Napoleon. I would like to be help to identify some pictures by the artist, library and museum. I would like to have your e-mail contact so I will send the pictures by e-mail. Looking forward to receiving your answer, I remain,
    Yours sincerely,
    Flavia Del Giudice

Join the discussion

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I was induced to give a Plate of Napoleon, which is copied from the French engraving, because, I consider myself as perfectly Master of his Lineaments, and I think it the most decided Likeness that has been given of him.

William Warden